The next superhero movie is here! Birds of Prey officially landed last night and has received some strong critical reception since it’s debut.
So what did we think of it?
A Surprisingly Effective Story
Birds of Prey picks up after the events that transpire in the epilogue of Suicide Squad. Harley Quinn has broken up with the Joker and by extension she’s lost that immunity that he provided.
No one wants to cross the Joker, but without him, Harley is fair game.
What follows is a fun story about self discovery, owning up to yourself and just pure unadulterated R-Rated superhero fun!
The story in Birds of Prey isn’t completely novel, but it is executed very well.
The way that Cathy Yen found a way to tell the story almost like a detective story with disconnected flashbacks and characters all being in one place at the right time is a nice change of pace.
It’s a good disconnect from the more formulaic storytelling seen in movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Aquaman or Shazam.
It’s told in a way that you actually believe that these characters could all be in the right place, at the right time.
However it doesn’t break your suspension of disbelief. And to be able to say that about a movie starring Harley Quinn, is no small feat.
Helping the movie along is the sharp (at times) writing. It should come as no surprise that the dialogue and delivery are all stellar.
What’s most surprising about it is how mature the movie actually handles itself.
Director Cathy Yen never bogs the movie down in self indulgent pity dialogue when the characters are at their low point.
She also doesn’t waste your time with moments that are unimportant to the story. Which, in an era of superhero movies getting longer and longer, this was a welcome breath of fresh air.
Robbie And McGregor Both Turn in Fantastic Character Performances
The cast here is all mostly excellent.
Margot Robbie is absolutely the main call out in this film. She has such a wonderfully infectious sense of fun about her in this role that it’s very difficult not to grin every time she’s one screen.
While she was the best part of Suicide Squad, she was mostly reserved in that movie for pure sex appeal, while in Birds of Prey she gets to let loose.
Margot Robbie has already established herself as a fantastic actress, but I guarantee you’ve never had more fun watching her than in this film.
She is the definitive Harley Quinn to me after this movie. She nails every aspect of the character and makes it her own at the same time.
Second person that I want to specifically commend for their performance is Ewan McGregor. His Black Mask portrayal might just be my new favorite villain since Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.
Black Mask is wonderfully written, in such a way that he actively does what very few villains ever convince me of; that they’re actually bad people.
Whether it’s screaming obscenities at his subordinates, making you squirm when he sexually harasses someone etc.
He’s just so magnetically entertaining in this role, and you can tell that he relished the opportunity to be as maniacal and horrible as he could.
There are many moments in this film where I was waiting for a cast member to overshadow these two leads, unfortunately I never quite got that impression.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rosie Perez do a good job as Huntress and Montoya respectively.
However, I still felt like they never quite got to stretch themselves, or that they just maybe didn’t get the strongest material to work with.
The rest of the cast is okay. I wish I had more good to say about them because I really enjoyed the portrayal that Jurnee Smollet-Bell brought to the character of Dinah Lance.
Unfortunately her dialogue and character development end up being way too formulaic and standard for a film that does such a good job at writing believable people.
The action in Birds of Prey is absolutely terrific. With the same director and stunt coordinator as the John Wick series you should have an idea of just how kinetic these scenes are.
Whether it’s Harley bashing in brains with her mallet, or a cocaine infused beat em’ up in an evidence locker, this movie had some very cool fight scenes.
Special shoutout here to just the entire prison breakout scene. The combination of effective slow motion, Margot Robbie’s reliance on doing her own stunts, fantastic choreography etc.
The whole section of this movie was some of the most fun I’ve had in a superhero fight scene since the opening of Deadpool 2.
Very briefly want to commend cinematographer Matthew Labitique and his camera crew. There are some fantastic uses of color and editing in this movie.
Which again, in a crowded genre, the fact that this movie actually felt and looked visually unique, is a testament to itself.
With the Benefit of Hindsight, It Stands Up
All in all, Birds of Prey was not necessarily a surprise to myself (I’ve been writing that it was going to be fun for a while) but what was surprising is just how much I loved it.
As a self declared DC snob, I was worried that this movie was going to lose what makes Harley Quinn so special: that she’s a great character on her own.
She doesn’t need Joker or the Birds of Prey to be fantastic and effective.
Luckily, I was very wrong. This movie proved that not only do they understand Harley Quinn much better now, but that they understand Margot Robbie’s talents better as well.
With not only a great story, clever and unique writing, great action choreography and a sadistically gleeful performance from it’s central villain. Birds of Prey is absolutely a wonderful time with some amamzing lead actors.
While it falters a bit in it’s supporting cast and in particular the writing for Smollet-Bell, this movie is just as original as you can get in this genre.